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By Barrie Hillman.

In 2020 most humans are seeking comfort or seeking to comfort others especially as we a face a grim winter of COVID-19 statistics.  Recently, a friend posted an oldie but goodie graphic on Facebook about the comfort zone seen here to the right.  I hadn’t seen it since my Masters program days but I had to laugh at myself when my brain was so surprised to be reminded that the first step to learning and growth is fear.  My mind immediately retreated into a fight or flight response of No! Learning should be fun and engaging but not fearful – we have enough fear already!  I realized I had put on my Comfort Goggles.

Comfort Zone graphic
What are Comfort Goggles?  Much like rose-colored glasses, Comfort Goggles are donned usually by a grownup wanting to protect a child from something fearful or challenging.  Parents are the ones that often carry their Comfort Goggles on their parent utility belt ready to deploy at the first sign of distress or unfairness or too much homework or unreasonable expectations.  Donning your Comfort Goggles means you are trying to arrange things so the fearful person, usually a child, leaps over the Fear Zone at the first sign of fear. (Look at that arrow.)  Even I, a hardened educator and parent, wanted to do that when I first glanced at the graphic.
Despite existing in really fearful times, we still have to put down our Comfort Goggles and continue to allow children to work through the Fear Zone.  By embracing the Fear Zone, they learn that they are capable of responding and reacting appropriately to get to the other side of it.

This is even so during a global pandemic. Kids have little control over their lives anyway and with the pandemic, even less so.  Things that were not fearful before (visiting Grandma, going to school, playing with the neighbor kid) all present new fear zones.

Comfort Zone (with goggles)

The resiliency we have seen in our kids to adjust to pandemic life is evidence that they can also work through fears presented in every day school life.  Public speaking, hard homework assignments, difficult subject matter, problem-solving with a teacher are all tasks they are capable of even if they are highly uncomfortable doing them.

Instead of donning Comfort Goggles and trying to remove the task causing the fear, parents need put on their Coaching Hat and provide guidance on how the child can work through the challenging task which will result in authentic learning and growth.  And remember, it is the job of the teacher to push students out of the Comfort Zone so naturally, they are pushing them in to the Fear Zone.

A parent wearing their Comfort Goggles focuses on the teacher as an adversary.  A parent wearing their Coaching Hat focuses on helping the student problem-solve through the Fear Zone with the teacher as an ally.